Retailers warn of customer confusion as Northern Ireland carrier bag charge begins today
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium has warned that there is a risk of customer confusion as the 5p carrier bag charge comes into force in the region today.
The organisation said that although retailers had invested substantial amounts of time and money in preparing staff and stores for the introduction of the charge, there was still a risk of initial customer confusion and conflict.
People in Northern Ireland use an estimated 250 million single use bags every year. Environment Minister Alex Attwood hopes the levy will dramatically cut the number of bags used. The money raised from the charge will be used to help fund initiatives to improve the environment in the region.
Attwood said: "As environment minister I want us to implement bold challenging new laws to enhance our clean and green credentials. The levy will help to do that."
However, NIRC director Aodhán Connolly said: "I understand the Minister wants to do something for the environment. We care about the environment too and we've worked with customers on a voluntary basis to deliver big reductions in bag use, but bags should not be politicians' priority.
"Our members are targeting the much bigger environmental prizes to be won from, for example, reducing the whole-life impact of products from manufacture and transport through their lifespan to disposal and recycling.
"But, with the legislation in place, our members have devoted substantial resources to staff training and other preparations and they're confident they're ready for this new regime.
"Even so, there is still the possibility of frontline staff in shops, small and large, facing conflict and confusion from customers who haven't been well enough informed. I hope the Department and the public will be patient while we all get used to this new system.”
The NIRC is calling for plans for a further bill to put a 10p levy on re-usable bags to be dropped. Connolly added: "Surely we should encourage consumers who are environmentally aware and utilise re-usable carrier bags not penalise them?"
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